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Government backtracks over plans to convert all schools to academies

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The government has reversed its decision to force all council-run schools to become academies

Announced by chancellor George Osborne during his budget in March, the move to convert all schools to independent academies by 2022 was widely criticised by both teachers and the architectural profession.

At the time Robin Nicholson of Cullinan Studio branded Osborne’s programme of academisation ’a dereliction of civic duty’, stating that the ’educational results of academies [were] as mixed as the schools they replaced’.

Nick Mirchandani, a director at Architecture PLB and governor at a council-run school, agreed, claiming he was ‘completely bemused’ by the idea of forced conversions, calling the policy ‘a massively retrograde and undemocratic step’.

The government climbdown was revealed earlier today (6 May) by education secretary Nicky Morgan following a wave of protests and threats of industrial action by head teachers.

Speaking to the BBC, Morgan claimed she had ’listened’ to those opposed to the proposals, including the dissenters within the Conservative party.

She went on: ’We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding - they can make the choice to convert.

’I hope that they will, because we are convinced that becoming academies does lift standards - but they can do the right thing for them and I think that reflects the concerns and the conversations that we have had.’

The number of academies in England has shot up since David Cameron was elected prime minister. Before May 2010 when the coalition government he led took power, there were just 203 academies. At the last count in December 2015, there were 3,516 academies.

Responding to the government’s change in stance, Mark Robinson the chief executive of Scape Group said: ’The government’s U-turn on the forced acadamisation plan is welcome given the current pressures local authorities are under to deliver pupil places.

’The acadamisation plan left various questions unanswered’

’The acadamisation plan left various questions unanswered, such as how local authorities would ensure academies expanded at an appropriate rate to satisfy local authorities’ continuing legal obligation to provide every child with a school place.

He added: ’The complexities involved and the divorce of local authority control from delivery was not practicable and the upheaval of the process would have distracted from what is most important. The time and money that would be pumped into the acadamisation programme is better used on providing new schools and classrooms which are of a high quality and provide excellent learning environments for our children.’ 

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